Harry Dunn’s family can bring civil claim against Anne Sacoolas, US court rules

A civil claim against Anne Sacoolas brought by the family of Harry Dunn in the US can go ahead, a judge has ruled.

Mrs Sacoolas had appealed to have the case dismissed on the grounds that it should be heard in the UK.

However, Judge Thomas Ellis ruled in a court at the eastern district of Virginia that the claim can go ahead in America.

Judge Ellis took into account a letter submitted by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab which stated: “I strongly support (the Dunn family’s) right to bring the case.”

The judgment stated said: “While it is commendable that defendant Anne Sacoolas admits that she was negligent and that her negligence caused Harry Dunn’s death, this does not equate acceptance of responsibility.

“Full acceptance of responsibility entails facing those harmed by her negligence and taking responsibility for her acts where they occurred, in the United Kingdom.”

Harry Dunn, 19, died after a collision between his motorbike and Mrs Sacoolas’ car outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in August 2019.

The 43-year-old then left the UK and returned to the US after the US State Department asserted diplomatic immunity on her behalf.

She was then charged with causing the teenager’s death by dangerous driving, but an extradition request was rejected by the US government in January 2020.

Following her remaining in the US, the Dunn family brought the civil case against her as a “last resort”.

Judge Ellis dismissed Mrs Sacoolas’ submission that the UK would have been a “more convenient” forum.

Radd Seiger, the Dunn’s spokesman, said: “Having studied this judgment we are delighted to see that common sense has prevailed.

“Harry’s parents only brought these legal proceedings as a last resort.

“The Sacoolases were on the one hand arguing that the civil claim for wrongful death should be tried in the UK as that was the ‘more convenient’ forum whilst at the same time arguing that she would not return to the UK to face a criminal prosecution because she fears she would not get a fair trial.

“Harry’s parents never wanted to enter into dispute with anybody and they fundamentally believe that the way to resolve differences is with dialogue.”

Mr Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, said: “We are pleased and relieved that at the court’s decision. We only took this step as a last resort following the denial of justice in the extradition case on strong legal advice from our legal team.”

In his ruling, Judge Ellis said: “Although the fatal car accident that is at the heart of this case occurred in the United Kingdom, two key witnesses, the two defendants, are available only in the United States, as they refuse to return to the United Kingdom for trial.

“Furthermore, all witnesses identified by plaintiffs have voluntarily agreed to participate in the case and to travel to the United States to do so.

“Indeed, defendants have not identified any witness who would be unavailable to participate in a trial in the Eastern District of Virginia, even as defendants themselves declare that they will not travel to the United Kingdom to participate in depositions or a trial there.”

It added: “Although the United Kingdom undoubtedly has an interest in this controversy, so too does the United States, as defendants are citizens of the United States and were representing the United States in the United Kingdom when the accident occurred.

“It is significant to note that the United Kingdom government has expressed firm support for the plaintiffs’ choice of forum in the Eastern District of Virginia.”

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